New law ‘will not alter ABC’
Senator says ‘uproar’ a waste
A TURNBULL government move to enshrine a “fair and balanced” ABC will not change anything about how the public broadcaster now operates.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the “uproar” about the proposed changes was unnecessary because fair treatment and balance “are not new or strange journalistic concepts”.
The government plans to introduce legislation to add a requirement to be “fair and balanced” to the ABC Act by the end of the year, as well as amendments to require an “explicit focus on regional and rural areas”.
The move is part of a deal Senator Fifield reached with One Nation which guaranteed support for sweeping media reforms passed by the Senate last week.
“(The ABC) will operate exactly as it does now, and that is the ABC will make judgments on these matters,” Mr Fifield told ABC’s Insiders yesterday.
“The government doesn’t have a role in editorial arrangements at the ABC. That’s not going to change ... we’re simply reinforcing through legislation that which is already in the ABC’s own editorial policies.”
The legislation also requires the ABC board to have at least two directors with “substantial” connection to regional Australia. It must also disclose salaries of staff earning more than $200,000.
But it is unlikely the legislation will pass the Senate with Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon opposed. Senator Xenophon last week agreed to pass media reform laws in exchange for a $60.4 million fund to support small commercial publishers. A number of outlets, including Guardian Australia and the ABC’s Emma Alberici, have criticised that fund. “... government handouts is not going to bring them more viewers, listeners, readers,” Alberici (left) wrote on social media last week. News Corp Australia, publisher of The Daily Telegraph, along with Fairfax Media and Guardian Australia, is not eligible for those grants.